Torrential rains, which flooded major thoroughfares and submerged thousands of homes in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta over the weekend overtake more homes with each subsequent hour. Though the area is prone to flooding, authorities say this is beyond anything they had prepared for, and Jakarta cannot be sufficiently protected.
Indonesia is rated one of the top first five countries most frequently hit by natural disasters over the last decade. Flooding began in its West Java area Saturday with extraordinarily heavy rains that cause the Ciliwung River, usually 20 inches (50 cm), to swell to 47 inches (120 cm). On Sunday morning, the waters reached south Jakarta, and by Monday afternoon much of the capital had been inundated.
Jakarta’s traffic police unit reported damage on the streets: collapsed trees due to strong winds, vehicles and especially motorbikes broken down as flood waters permeated engines.
In some parts of east Jakarta, such as Kampung Pulo and Kampung Melayu, water depth reached 8.2 feet (2.5 m).
The National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) reported Monday that waters flooded the homes of 10,250 families in Jakarta. Refugees numbered 1,448 in the areas of Baleendah District, Dayeuhkolot, Bojongsoang, Rancaekek, Cileunyi and Banjaran.
As of Monday afternoon, no casualties had been reported, but the severity of the situation is increasing.
“The dimensions and the problem of flooding in Jakarta continue to increase,” reads a statement of BNPB released Sunday.
The agency explained that before the 1970s, the dominant factors for flooding were natural causes. But later, the causes became more complex, combining natural and anthropogenic factors.
Jakarta Public Works Agency chief Ery Basworo said that the existing drainage system is working fine, according to the Jakarta Post, it is only that the water flow is too great. Average rainfall in Jakarta is 0.2–0.4 inches (5–10 millimeters) per hour; rainfall in Jakarta Saturday reached 6 inches (150 millimeters) per hour.
“This doesn’t happen a lot, so the pumps could not handle it,” Ery said.
Jakarta authorities have so far identified 78 areas at risk of being flooded. There are several government initiatives to solve the flooding problem, but they will likely be insufficient.
The East Flood Canal can only control flooding in 15 areas. The West Flood Canal can only manage six areas.
Even if all the planned protections for the future were already in place, it would be difficult to cope with the current levels of flooding.
The Jakarta Emergency Dredging Initiative will address flooding in 20 areas by dredging 13 rivers between 2013 and 2014. Another effort scheduled to finish in 2014, the dredging of the Pesanggrahan River, the Angke River, and the Sunter River, would only solve the flooding problem in 10 areas.
“Jakarta will not be absolutely flood free,” concluded National Disaster Management Agency’s statement.
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